S.C. Poet Laureate 1985 - 1986
Grace Freeman was named poet laureate of South Carolina by Governor Dick Riley in 1985. Grace was born in Greenville County, and her poems, stories, plays, radio and TV dramas were the mark of an enthusiastic writer. As a South Carolina writer, she showed a deep connection to the state's landscape. And most unique was her pioneering use of poetry as therapy for depression and mental illness.
When Grace began her work in "poetry therapy" in the 1970s, the idea was very new. Oddly enough, prior to the 20th century, a few therapists thought that writing poetry caused mental illness. But Grace believed that one could take the problems of a patient and put them into a poem. The poem was a safe place for that person to deal with his or her troubles. On poetry therapy, she said that when people put feelings into words, "they discover other people have these same feelings, when you learn to accept your weaknesses, your fears, you learn to live with them."
The following are some of Grace's poems from her book, Stars and the Land. The book was dedicated to the memory of Archibald Rutledge, the first poet laureate of South Carolina.
Cornstalk soldiers in shiny green armor
Standing at attention while my brawny young farmer
Strides through their ranks, joy in his walk,
Proud to be dwarfed by the tallest cornstalk.
Cornfield army, ragged in the dusk,
Surrendering to winter the last brown husk.
Tired old soldiers, standing at ease,
Sagging at the shoulders, buckling at the knees.
was growing bald.
In vain the rain
massaged his sparse green
fringe while wind
combed three slim pines
like hairs on top.
are talkative old men
with twisted backs
who never shave
their long grey beards.
Copyright 1983 (c) Grace B. Freeman
Photo of Grace Freeman courtesy SC Arts Commission